Brad Keselowski cut his Team Penske Ford’s fuel mileage to such a razor thin level that he couldn’t do his celebratory donuts after the race, but going 71 laps without stopping was just enough to hold off the Toyota of Carl Edwards by .175 of a second to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
The race was steered by first Kevin Harvick showing his Stewart-Haas prowess and then later, Martin Truex, Jr. showing the way for a combined 175 laps of 276, but there were a number of cars that didn’t pit all running on fumes. The set up for the finish allowed Keselowski to reach his fourth win of the season with Edwards, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart in his 600th start rounding out the top five.
It was Keselowski’s second straight win after taking Daytona last week and 21st overall in his career and his third victory out of six tries at Kentucky leading for 75 laps on Saturday night.
“We knew the fuel mileage,” said Keselowski, becoming the first driver to officially clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. “We went out and we set a really fast pace there on that restart and were just using fuel, and then it became obvious that you were going to have to save fuel at the end, but I already used so much.
“It’s a testament to our guys to have the fuel mileage that we did, to be able to get back what I burnt early in the run and get the Miller Lite Ford in Victory Lane. Usually, these repaves are kind of my Achilles heel, but to get a win here at Kentucky, I know it’s been a good track for us in the past, but this isn’t the same Kentucky, I can tell you that.”
When Keselowski slowed through Turn 4 on the next-to-last lap, Edwards thought he had the race won, but in retrospect, Edwards was shaking his head not believing he had been beaten by such a move. Keselowski waited until the last moment coming off turn 4 to re-fire and use his remaining fuel to jet off from a fast approaching Edwards for one more lap.
“I guess I’m impressed that he did beat me, but I don’t want to be,” sighed Edwards. “He waited. He basically shut the car off and went right off of four and matched it perfectly to where I couldn’t get by him down the front straightaway, and then he ran like heck through 1 and 2, and then I thought maybe he’ll run out down the back straight. Man, I dove it down in there trying to catch him into 3, and I couldn’t even get to him.”
Truex had taken the lead off pit road on Lap 196, but NASCAR sent him to the rear of the field for passing Harvick, then the race leader, on the entry to pit road. For the last 68 laps, Truex drove like a madman, advancing from 23rd to as high as third before pitting for fuel and finishing 10th.
“It wasn’t my night on that deal,” Truex said. “It’s frustrating; we had the car to beat. We came out with the lead and they took it away from us. It’s just the way it goes, I guess.”
Next stop for the NASCAR Sprint Cup takes the tour to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, July 17.